Washington Blvd., above | Google Earth || Bottom left: The street during roadway improvements made between 2nd and 9th Ave. in 2015. | File
Saturday, March 4, 2017 || By Michael Romain || @maywoodnews
During a March 1 Legal, License and Ordinance Committee (LLOC) meeting, the Maywood Board of Trustees unanimously voted to direct village staff to apply for a county grant that could be the first step in a last push to finish resurfacing a remaining stretch of Washington Boulevard that’s badly in need of repair by 2020.
That grant preparation and talk of other street improvements are in anticipation of an infusion of federal infrastructure funding that might be available in the future.
Although village officials didn’t go into details about when, or in what specific form, that federal funding would come, local officials nationwide are positioning themselves for a possible infusion of cash in the wake President Donald Trump’s election. During his campaign, the president promised to deliver a $1 trillion dollar infrastructure plan.
According to policy experts and pundits, however, the president hasn’t publicized any details about the plan since taking office. Late last month, the New York Times editorial board wrote that “Republican sources sources told the news organization Axios […] that the White House wouldn’t unveil an infrastructure proposal until 2018.”
Local officials, however, are still taking steps to prepare for federal funding whenever, and however, it comes available.
During the March 1 meeting, Maywood officials said that they plan to seek $200,000 in county grant funds to spend on the design phase of a major Washington Blvd. enhancement project, which would make the project “shovel-ready” in the event that federal funding starts trickling down.
The grant is an aspect of the long-term transportation plan adopted by Cook County — the first in 75 years. After the plan’s adoption, the county’s Department of Transportation and Highways formed an $8.5 million pool of funds that would “cover the cost of planning and feasibility studies, engineering right-of-way acquisition, and construction associated with transportation improvements sponsored by local and regional governments and private partners,” according to the program’s website.
The program, also called Invest in Cook, is designed to help fund improvements that “are consistent with the five priorities” outlined in the county’s transportation plan, including the prioritization of modes of transportation that are alternatives to automobiles and the enhancement of the Cook County region’s “role as North America’s freight capital.”
During the March 1 LLOC meeting, Assistant Village Manager David Myers said that he and his staff attended a workshop on the county grant and an informational session on grant opportunities held recently in Bellwood and sponsored Cook County Commissioner Richard Boykin (1st), whose district encompasses most of Maywood.
Washington Blvd. is under village jurisdiction and is classified as a federal urban route, which means that it qualifies for federal funding. The resurfacing of a portion of the roadway, from 2nd to 9th Avenues, was completed in 2015.
Village officials said that it would cost an additional $3 million to complete the rest of Washington, from 1st to 21st Ave., that still needs to be resurfaced and enhanced. The federal government would pay around $1.2 million of that total. Officials said that they’ve been unsuccessful in prior attempts to secure funding for the much-needed improvements.
Myers said that Washington is a thoroughfare that connects multiple suburbs. One key criteria in the list of qualifications for the county grant is that the proposals benefit the region and not just a single municipality.
Myers added that the possible addition of a bike lane along Washington Blvd. could position the village to receive “extra credits” for being consistent with the county’s transportation priorities for the region, which include making infrastructure more amenable to alternative modes of transportation.
Other roadway priorities
Myers said that village officials identified two other roadways in Maywood that might qualify for county funds to help pay for capital improvements. The roads — which include 19th Ave., from Oak St. to Madison St.; and Madison St., from First Ave. to the Des Plaines River — represent areas that are among the most concerning for village officials.
“The first thing on my list was Madison, from First to the bridge,” said Myers during last week’s LLOC meeting.
The total cost of that improvement project total more than $730,000, with around $550,000 coming from federal sources, village officials project.
Mark Lucas, an engineer with the village’s contracted firm Hancock Engineering, said that the village could secure a significant portion of funding for the Madison St. improvements from a grant from the North Central Council of Mayors and the Madison St. TIF fund. If the village can secure federal funding, construction on that stretch of road could be completed by next year.
The other problematic stretch of roadway, 19th Ave., from Oak to Madison, would cost over $2 million to fix, according to village officials. The federal government would cover around $1.2 million, with the village chipping in just over $800,000.
A stretch of 19th Ave. in Maywood. | Google Earth
Lucas said that 19th Avenue, which is currently designated a local roadway, could qualify as a federal urban route, opening it up to federal funding. The process, however, could take up to 18 months, he said.
Village officials said that they recommended that Washington Blvd. be considered for the Invest in Cook grant, over the two previously mentioned capital projects, because “a major factor holding the project from proceeding is having a dedicated source of funds to complete it,” Lucas noted in a Feb. 22 memo.
“I am 100 percent on board with the Washington corridor,” said Trustee Isiah Brandon at the March 1 LLOC meeting.
“I think it makes sense,” he said. “It will be a long time coming for that particular area. It goes along with the completion of all those other major corridors like Madison and St. Charles. So many times, I hear people say that you know when you’ve reached Maywood, [while] driving down Washington Blvd because of the potholes you hit. We’re almost there, let’s finish the work.”
Myers said that village officials are currently working on the county grant, the deadline for which is March 15. VFP
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